Regulating social media is regulating free speech – MISA

Regulating social media is regulating free speech – MISA

For Immediate Release                                                                    Thursday, June 20, 2019.          

REGULATING SOCIAL MEDIA IS REGULATING FREE SPEECH – MISA

Lusaka – MISA has learnt with disappointment the proposal by South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) Members of Parliament wanting the National Assembly to adopt a motion which could lead to the enactment of legislation to regulate social media in Namibia.

On June 19, 2019, in the motion to discuss Namibia’s nationhood which was introduced by SWAPO chief whip Evelyn Nawases-Taeyele, she said the simple traits of life such as decency, patriotism and morality were under threat in Namibia.

According to her, the simple traits of life such as decency, patriotism and morality were under threat in Namibia. She said although social media has proven to be beneficial to society, some people use the platforms to “bad-mouth, slander, offend and insult others”.

While, Hon. Nawases-Taeyele argues that some young people in Namibia were also using social media to fuel propaganda, and insult national leaders, MISA believes that regulating social media will threaten fundamental democratic freedoms which include freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right of citizens to assemble online.

It must be noted that the online platform is a source of recourse for many citizens.

The online platforms allow citizens to access information, communicate and assemble much more freely and at a cheaper cost than traditional media and physical space meetings or means of communication.

Having such kind of a legislation would be an impediment and an assort to the Namibia’s democracy and freedom of expression as people will find it difficult to openly discuss national matters amid fears of being prosecuted.

Regulation can oppress unpopular opinions and stop important conversations. Important conversations happen on social media everyday. Again, almost every business is on social media these days, starting conversations, connecting with fans and promoting their products or services.

Having such kind of legislation is a breach of Namibia’s obligations under national, regional and international standards and frameworks to uphold freedom of expression.

We call upon Namibian Members of Parliament to exercise caution and guard against any gaps that may result in the laws restricting citizens from using the internet to seek, receive and share information.

We also call upon the people of Southern Africa to join our clarion call for a free, open and safe internet ecosystem for all.

 

Hellen Mwale,

Regional Chairperson – MISA

About MISA Zambia

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia was founded in 1996. Its work focuses on promoting, and advocating for, the unhindered enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and a free, independent, diverse and pluralistic media.

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